Monday, November 04, 2013

Jolly Einstein Or The House Of Representatives? Make Your Choice This Christmas

Pressure Busting Tip #4

My family is big, but it's not like the Osmonds or the Kennedys.  Still, once my sister Patti had her four kids, and I had my two, and my other sister Susan had her two, and my brother had his two, we all suddenly realized that Christmas was going to get exponentially more expensive.  And for a long, long time if we didn't do something about it.  We weren't being a Scrooge or a Grinch, we were being more of a...Christmas Einstein. While the kids were little, it was a given that we would buy for them.  Heck, most of the fun of Christmas shopping was buying Kid Stuff.  For the adults, we all put our names on an index card along with a few gift ideas that were within our set spending limit.  Then we had a drawing.  After a few years, we all agreed to give that up, too, and simply spend the money on our kids and my mom and dad.  Then the kids all got older and less fun to buy for, and their tastes got really specific and more expensive and we realized that this, too, could go on forever, and when they started having babies, where and when would it ever end?

Madness!  It's like the House of Representatives.  Anyway, this all leads me to today's tip, which some of you may have already implemented:  Set practical, common-sense gift-giving limits and stick to them. In our family we make age 18 the last year for gifts from aunts and uncles.  We do not buy gifts for grandnieces and grandnephews no matter how adorable and wonderful and cuddly they are.  We leave that set to Great-Grandma St. Patsy and the Grandmas and Grandpas among us.  Christmas is for children, but the last thing children need is to be spoiled by ten tons of plastic.  Better that they feel ten tons of love, laps, hugs, and smooches.

Every once in a while, I'll see a small giftie that reminds me of Bobby, Susan, or Patti (my siblings).  I happily pick it up to give to him or her at Christmas as a surprise.  No one expects anything, and if someone gets something and the other doesn't, there are no hurt feelings.  It makes for a happier, less stressful, more loving Christmas.


  1. We're finally instituting this for the first time this year. One family member is NOT HAPPY and says it feels like being at work to draw names. Everyone else is enormously relieved. Not just the $$$, though there is that, but also the trying to figure out what someone wants. As Maya is the youngest child, and she is 17.5, she's getting upgraded to adult.

  2. J@jj--There is always one "Starry-Eyed Perfect Christmas Tiny Tim" holdout in every family that balks at any sort of brisk efficiency introduced to Christmas. And I get it, I really do. But you simply cannot have everything. Does Tiny Tim want to be able to have some adults open presents joyfully, or does Tiny Tim want to put the kibosh on Big People Christmas altogether? Or perhaps she (has to be a she, and I know I'm stereotyping here) really wants to doom everyone to Shopping Hell so that she gets more gifts? Whatever her motive, it's time to get rid of the twinkle dust and think about Simple Logistics. I'm retired and have All The Time In The World. Yet I don't want to spend it shopping for presents. There's some Truth for you.

  3. It was hubby's side of the family where Christmas giving became an ordeal. I don't even want to tell you the rules we had to follow. Now that his mother is no longer with us and the family doesn't speak to each other, that's not an issue. Perhaps if the focus had been on more important stuff, today's situation would be different.

    We still give gifts on my family's side. There are 8 of us total. It doesn't seem like a big deal and it is fun, so for now we continue.

    Between the three of us, we tend to focus more on events (trips, plays, etc.) and my girlfriends and I have been doing the same. That is my favorite way to spend the holidays, being with the people you love doing something fun and memorable.

    Your comment on the plastic is so very true and reminded me of this video which a friend shared the other day: *Perhaps* Toys R Us' intentions were good, but oh brother.

    Thanks, Nance.

  4. We only have a small number of gifts to buy each year - & even at that it's frustrating & annoying. My nephews & niece get money (or gift cards) - and that's all they expect from us. I wish I could tell my brother & his wife to just stop messing with gifts. We should go in together to get my dad & his wife something nice (they give all of us BIG money for the holiday because my dad doesn't shop). I think I'll suggest that this year (or next if Bren has been on the ball already).

  5. Bug--When gift-giving becomes an obligation and not a pleasure, that is a good sign that it's time to amend it, at least. Call Bren and tell her you were thinking of ending the general gift-giving and instead concentrate on pooling money for a really nice gift for your dad and stepmom. Explain that you feel strongly about it, and that it's what you'd rather do.

    Maybe you can salve any guilt by knitting or crafting something for the nieces or nephews. But, really, as often as you see them, just getting together should be the point.

    Shirley--I think I said it in another post's comments, but to reiterate, I am just resentful as to how the commercialization of Christmas has made so many of us resentful and just plain exhausted during this Holiday. It's just become fraught with expectation and pettiness. I'm with you: do things you love with those you love. It's like we all need to find some enormous cosmic Holiday Reset button.

  6. Shirley--Just watched that video. Honestly, I don't know what to feel.

  7. The video made me feel sad that we've sold out nature/"real life" for something that comes in a box, in a store. :-(

    The need to Unplug the Christmas Machine is not new. The book by that title came out in 1991. ( I think that so many just go along with what's been done for years, because it's easier than not. I've read (maybe in that book) that it's better to discuss the topic at another time of year when emotions aren't running high. Honestly, I don't think some families will ever let go and re-gain common sense, but re-evaluating/discussing the issue could lead to merrier holidays for some in the future. Maybe you'll improve lives with this post! Hope so!

  8. Shirley--

    Rose, a commenter on another post, mentioned this book. I certainly understand that these ideas I'm posting aren't new. They're timely, and they've worked for me. I think that there's never a "good" time to discuss changing traditions. If you mention it earlier, people will forget, and when you remind them at the Holiday, it's the same reaction as hearing it the first time. So many people view The Holidays as some sort of magical, perfect, idealized time. When you're a kid, yes. But THEN YOU GROW UP AND PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAIN. What is it with this Boomer Generation that wants to be kids forever?

    Let's figure out a way to capture the basics of a Lovely Christmas without hurting ourselves in the process.

  9. Oh, Nance, re-reading my comment, I realize that the part about not being new didn't sound nice. Yikes! That was not my intention. If only our true "tones" always came through when leaving comments, writing emails, etc. Sigh. Please don't misunderstand at all. I am loving your tips and re-visiting this whole topic!! I guess I'm in wonder that the writing is on the wall for us all, but many of us ignore it or just "make do." Isn't that a sad commentary on what Christmas has become for most compared to what its true meaning is supposed to be? Keep up the good work, dear. Your last sentence in your reply to me is perfect.

  10. Shirley--I didn't take it in a critical way at all, and my reply wasn't meant to be, either.

    So happy to see you in comments again!


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